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These young men are real. I swear. I couldn’t make “Hungry, Vegan, and Broke” up. I saw them in one of my favorite places to people watch—outside of Powell’s Books. It was a hot, hot afternoon, and they looked just as hot and tired as they do in my painting. But the sign was absurd and their shoes expensive, so I don’t think they were in much danger of starving.
I came right home to paint them. My youngest daughter came home from school to find me almost finished.
“Why are you paining those men?” she asked turning up her nose.
“Because the are tragic, funny, and beautiful all at once.”
“I don’t get it.”
Her reaction was a foreshadowing of all my friends and family. So several, months later I downplayed this painting when I had my first show. It didn’t sell, but it got more positive reaction than any other painting there. It is one of my best selling greeting cards and it doesn’t do badly in prints either. Everyone smiles.
Today Redbubble , a print on demand service, featured it on their homepage. It would be Redbubble, they like the quirky and the edgy.
This is downtown Portland about a block south of Burnside. The little building peaking out on the left is our Portland mecca, Powell’s Books. But it’s the bright old fashioned brick building lit up by the sun in contrast with the glass and steel building behind them that caught my eye.
I simplified the buildings considerably, taking out much brick ornamentation. I eliminated a few street lights and lamps too. I also moved the shadow forward a little to encompass all of the foreground cars. Before I made the change, the closest left-hand car stole the show. The pedestrian was on the on the scene, but not where I’ve placed him. My applogies to the Joyce Hotel whose name I removed from their canopy since it drew too much attention to itself.
The palate is simple, cobalt blue, phthalo blue, quinacridone brown madder, and raw sienna.
I redid my Mexican Cafe from scratch and I like it much better. I used the same reference photo and the same palette. The real change is the composition. This time the shadow leads the eye right into the diners. And I eliminated much of the detail in the building to keep the eye there.
I took it to my critique group yesterday and it got rave reviews. Someone pointed out that the composition works so well that it even looks good upside down as an abstract painting. Now, if only I could figure out how to do this every time.
Another cityscape from downtown Portland. The day and the palette are the same. The light and consequently the painting couldn’t be more different.
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Last month, my husband and I were out and about in downtown Portland, after having spent the early afternoon at Powell’s Bookstore. Stephen patiently followed me around the hot pavement as I photographed street after street. The sun was brilliant after a cloudy spring, and the light on the streets and buildings almost blinding.
Here’s my first attempt at the heat and glow of that afternoon. I began by giving the paper of light wash of quinacridone gold. After the wash dried I very carefully sketched out the scene. Then I washed the sky with cobalt blue and the pavement with a mixture of quinacridone deep red rose and gold. Next, I masked a very few small light details.
With the paper ready to begin painting in earnest I began with the shadows and the lamp. The shadows are phthalo blue and deep red rose. The lamp is the same plus some burnt sienna. I painted the man in the window next and then glazed over him and the window multiple times. Then I loosely dropped in the tree and the background foliage at the end of the street. After that I worked up and down the buildings washing in the light and building up the darks.
In the end I think the shaded part of the building on the right takes up too much attention, but I’m not sure. I’ll try something similar again soon.
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Since becoming a painter of people, I’ve developed some sneaky ways of photographing strangers in public. One of them is to sit in a restaurant or on a park bench and pretend to be reviewing my pictures when I am actually taking pictures instead. I took the photos I used for this painting in just that way.
I just had to take the photos because of the way kitchen lights in the otherwise dark pub threw these waiters into relief. They looked like they were on stage, yet the scene was intimate. It reminded me of an Edward Hooper painting. But I’m no Hooper, and I intended something much warmer than the world he painted.
It wasn’t easy. I tried a version of this painting almost a year ago and was unsatisfied with it. As usual, the main problem was composition. I included too much of the scene and destroyed much of both the intimacy and the light contrast I was trying to present.
I like this new smaller version much better than last year’s version.
Once again I used a limited palate: phthalo blue, cobalt blue, burnt sienna, and raw sienna. Because I was painting with limited supplies in Colorado, I only had one yellow. If I had been painting at home I would have substituted a brighter yellow for the raw sienna.
Between art fairs and getting prints ready for my first painting fair I haven’t had time to actually paint nearly as often as I’d like. Today I decided to paint whether I had the time or not.
And I returned to a subject I had attempted to paint without success about six or seven months again, the Annex Building in downtown Portland. Like many downtown Portland buildings it’s wedge shaped to take advantage of the oddly shaped blocks created where diagonals run through the city grid. I photographed the Annex in the late afternoon when sun lit up all of the brick-a-brack.
My first attempts at painting the building ended in frustration because I included much too much detail. This time I simplified both the brick-a-brack and the colors. I also eliminated an upper story with a flat wall used as a a bill board facing out over the bar. This is one case where KISS (“keep it simple stupid”) worked.
Besides eliminating detail, I also simplified the colors and reduced my palette to phthalo blue, burnt sienna, and yellow ocher. At the very end I dropped cobalt blue into the sky.
It sure felt good to paint again, and better yet to paint something I’d failed to paint before.
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